Houston We Have a Problem 11



Ask Rick 169 03/09/11


Have Blackberry Will Travel

When I travel abroad or in the UK I always ensure that the accommodation that I am staying in has Wi-Fi because I run my own accountancy business so I need to ensure that I can access my emails etc from my laptop. You recently mentioned that a Windows 7 netbook could be linked to the Internet via an HTC Android smart phone using the Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot app so I was wondering whether this would be possible to use a similar method for a Vista laptop and a Blackberry Curve 9300 on a Vodafone PAYG SIM card?

Mark Cornwell, by email


Although there is no comparable wireless app for the Blackberry it is possible to use it as a mobile broadband modem by connecting or tethering it to your PC with a USB cable or via Bluetooth. You have to install Blackberry’s Desktop Manager software on the PC and fiddle with a number of configuration settings, so it’s not for the faint hearted, but you’ll find step-by-step instructions on the Blackberry Knowledgebase at: http://goo.gl/X6lr2.



Kith and Kindle

I recently purchased a Kindle e-book reader for my wife.  She is delighted with it but this does mean that I can no longer read a book after her as I used to do occasionally with printed books. I am considering buying an iPad for which I gather a free Kindle app is available.  Would this enable me to access her already purchased Kindle library?

John Francis, by email


Yes, and devices like the iPad, iPhone, Android tablets, smart phones, PCs and Macs for which a Kindle Reader app is available, as well as other Kindles, can share the books registered to one Amazon account. There are a few imitations, for example, no more than six devices or Kindles can simultaneously read a single book, and it’s not possible to share subscriptions to newspapers and magazines. Otherwise it is very straightforward and to access your wife’s books simply go into the Kindle Reader’s Settings menu and under Registration enter her Amazon logon email address and password. It should automatically sync with the account and her books will be available to download in Archived Items.



Modern Minefield

Purchasing my new Windows 7 PC was a pretty bad experience, even though I am a reasonably experienced computer user. It must be dreadful for those buying a PC for the first time. The first week is spent fielding barrages of updates from Microsoft, the PC manufacturer, Adobe, et al. In addition, until recently pretty well all PC’s had MS Works installed on them. Sadly this is no longer the case, so the hapless newcomer is steered, at a cost, towards the hugely over-complex MS Office package. Can you offer any advice to guide new users through the minefield?

Chris Pryce, by email


You paint a rather bleak picture and I suspect it been a while since you last bought a PC. Generally speaking W7 PCs are easier to use but it’s true that some things have become a tad more complicated as a result of increasingly sophisticated hardware and software and security threats. However, as far as updates are concerned, usually all the user has to do is click a button to agree to them being installed. This should be no great hardship, even for newbies. Once a system is fully up to date further routine updates are either installed automatically or just a few times a year with little or no user intervention.


Microsoft Works was bundled with some PCs as a buying incentive but it never was a free program. If you have a Works installation disc from a previous PC (Works v7 or later) there’s nothing to stop you installing it on your new computer. Failing that new and unregistered copies of Works can be found on ebay selling for under £5.00. If you haven’t got a disc, then why not try OpenOffice.org? It’s a full office suite, comparable and compatible with MS Office, and the word processor is really easy to use. For simple writing jobs you don’t have to worry about the bells and whistles, but they are there if you need them. It is Open Source software so it’s free and you will find a link to the download at: www.openoffice.org. If all you want is a simple word processor then try one of the many freeware alternatives like Abiword or Jarte and there are links to the downloads at: http://goo.gl/eC7BH.



Laptop Longevity

I have a two-year old laptop, which I reboot and shut down daily. In order to preserve my machine, would it be better to put it into Sleep or Hibernate mode rather than continually rebooting?

Duke Hall, by email


How you start and shut down your PC shouldn’t make any significant difference to its longevity. The two opposing arguments are that the thermal shock of booting from cold can shorten the lives of some components. On the other hand electronic devices have finite lives and leaving a PC in a semi-active hibernate or sleep state can contribute to their demise. Rebooting refreshes some system files that can become cluttered or corrupted after sustained operation but it’s much less of a problem with Vista and W7. Waking a PC from sleep or hibernate is obviously much quicker than booting but it there may be problems reinstating connections with a network or some peripherals.


In the end there’s no way of predicting what will eventually kill your PC but if it makes it through the first few months, when parts are most likely to fail, you protect your system from viruses and malware, avoid physical shock, vibration, excessive heat, humidity, dust and keep it away from strong magnetic fields then statistically there is quite a good chance it will make it through to retirement. This is normally around five to seven years from new, by which time you will probably have replaced it. And if it does throw an unexpected wobbly you can minimise the damage and disruption by making regular backups of irreplaceable files on an external hard drive.



© R. Maybury 2011 1508


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